Maximizing Space in the Small Business Server Room

Sponsored By: Schneider Electric

Office space is at a premium for most small businesses, so those that get an actual room in which to put their servers and network appliances count themselves among the lucky. Unfortunately, that space was likely designed to house janitorial equipment, not sensitive IT hardware. Here’s how to make it work when the only thing smaller than your server room is your budget.

Rack ‘em up

When working with tight quarters, it’s tempting to stack servers and other equipment on shelves or desks – or each other. Sure, it saves space and money. But it can also shorten the life of your hardware. Cramming servers and appliances together this way causes overheating. It also leaves them exposed to tampering and accidental damage.

Racks do double duty by both organizing and securing your gear. Open frame models provide unobstructed airflow to keep servers cool, and give you easy access in cramped spaces. Wall-mounted models are a great option when floor space is limited.

Cool ‘em off

Managing temperature in a server room is a constant challenge for any company. But for an SMB with cramped confines, it’s a particularly hot topic. Servers operating in a small, poorly ventilated room can quickly push the thermometer into the red. No matter how much of a premium space is for your business, make sure not to pack your gear too tightly and make sure you incorporate some kind of cooling element. You’re going to need it.

Closet-sized spaces may not offer enough room to set up oscillating fans or a portable server room air conditioner, so you may opt for rack-based cooling products. These fans and other air distribution appliances are sit in or on the rack enclosure and reduce hot spots by removing heat or providing cool air.  Some also include temperature displays to make it easier for you to beat the heat.

Manage your cables

Unkempt power cords, Ethernet cables, and other wiring don’t just look messy. It can also block access to equipment and restrict airflow around it. Stray wires also pose a snagging hazard that can unplug an appliance or bring it crashing to the ground.

When setting up your server room, be sure to bundle cables together. It’s typical to bundle by server, and if necessary, bundle those bundles together. Zip-ties are an easy and budget-friendly solution. Depending on how much equipment your server room is housing, you might also consider more advanced cable management solutions such as cable rings, ladders, and other organizers.

Label everything

No matter how simple your layout, make sure you label everything. Maneuvering in a tight space is tough enough without having to move equipment around to identify it or trace cables to their endpoints. Labeling will allow you find what you need at a glance. It will also reduce confusion and accidental unplugging when vendors or other staffers need to work on the hardware.

A simple label maker is all you need to document your setup. Label equipment with names and IP addresses. Cables should also have their endpoints – what they connect to and from – noted on the label.

Dealing with limited space can be intimidating; it’s a challenge that requires care and diligence to overcome. But it’s worth it. Because no matter how small your server room is, it plays a huge role in the success of your business.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Sponsored By: Schneider Electric